Francois Boucher – Diana Bathing

The majority of Bouchers are mere wall-ornaments, stereotyped variations of a formula for artificial prettiness. They represent a late stage in the thinning-out of Renaissance classicism. Greek goddesses are transformed into dolls that simper in weak, empty affectation. The warm rich bodies that Titian and Rubens gave them have faded to a plastery pink and white, and the vigorous action .of Poussin has dwindled to a flutter of wavy ribbons. All textures acquire the same hard shallowness: roses are tinselly, rocks and trees like a photographer’s back-drop. There is always a clearly organized linear pattern, accurately balanced, but it is imitative and overloaded with small ornaments.

The Diana is one of his few pictures that rise above this level, not to lofty heights, but to a fairly well-developed and original form. Preserving the dainty lightness characteristic of his school, and his own lively rhythm of small swirls and diagonals, it backs them up with deeper color, especially in the realistic pile of game and the large blue cloth. The human flesh-tints are not plastery, but a fine porcelain, suffused with peach and rose, and the landscape harmonizes in a soft, cloudy gray-green. Above all, the picture is not over-ornamented, and the graceful design of masses stands out with relative strength and simplicity.